Northeastern Ross County — The Ross County Grand Jury returned all 18 of their cases Friday, November 17th, 2023, with four open for release to the public. In one of the cases, from testimony in the the grand jury – according to Jeff Marks, Ross County Prosecutor:
On October 22nd, law enforcement and EMS were called out to 181 Bull Creek Road near Adelphi, the residence of the couple Eric Vanover and 44-year-old Jara McKnight (a.k.a. Jara Newman). A van in the driveway was on fire, and flames spread to the residence.
The passer-bys who reported the fire said that Vanover was lying near the van and that they had pulled him away from the flames.
McKnight is also said to have come out of the residence and gone through Vanover’s pockets while he was lying there; law enforcement continues to investigate exactly what she was doing.
Vanover was taken to a hospital, firefighters worked on the fire, and then law enforcement investigated the scene. They found shell casings in the driveway. While fighting the fire, firefighters had found a .22 handgun lying on a bed.
After midnight, the hospital reported that a gunshot wound was found in the back of Vanover’s head, so at about 3am law enforcement contacted McKnight and collected more evidence. Prosecutor Marks believes that OSU Medical Center reported that they believed the bullet had fragmented, with part lodging in his brain, and part in his cheek.
McKnight said she had fired a .22 caliber handgun into the back of the van from 35-40 feet away…but no shell casings were found in that area – instead, closer to the van. She was eventually placed under arrest for felonious assault.
But about nine days later, around October 31st, Prosecutor Marks says that Vanover died in the hospital – so McKnight was charged with murder.
McKnight has given some indication that the two were in a verbal altercation that led up to the van fire. No explanation of the fire has been released yet.
More information will be available as the investigation continues towards a trial.
For indictments on second-degree felonious assault with a firearm specification, McKnight could get up to eight years and $15,000 in fines – and for murder with a firearm specification, McKnight could get 15 years to life.
Though the postal address of the scene is Londonderry, the location is about three miles south of Adelphi, just off State Route 327 at the north edge of Tar Hollow State Park / Forest.
Prosecutor Jeff Marks says Ross County does not have many murder cases, but they are increasing in recent years; he says in his five years in the office he has prosecuted at least ten.
The latest was the conviction of Marvan Woodfork in September, sentenced to 24 years for a January shooting at the Christopher Inn off Bridge Street.
And a Chillicothe man, Cameron D. Crews, has been charged with a July 5th shooting murder of Chillicothean Joseph Pollock on East 4th Street.